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Where are the cannabis disproportionately impacted areas?

Published on Oct. 30, 2019 by Steven Vance

Updated on Dec. 31, 1969

The Illinois law that legalizes recreational marijuana cultivation and sales establishes “disproportionately impacted areas” (DIA). These are places across the state where there has been a high rate of people being incarcerated for violating anti-marijuana laws and have high poverty or unemployment. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) published the DIAs this month.

In the process to apply for a dispensary license, people can earn extra points in the review of their applications for being a “Social Equity Applicant” (see the Cannabis Regulation & Tax Act and the application instructions). One of the qualifying criteria is that the applicant has lived in a DIA for a minimum period of time. Another is that at least half of the applicant’s future 10+ person staff reside in DIAs.

I compared the DIAs — which use Census tract boundaries — to the Chicago ward boundaries to help readers and customers understand where these areas are. Additionally, since the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund program rules were tweaked to allow the City of Chicago to offer grants to cannabis business establishments, I’ve created a map showing where those areas overlap.

Map shows the 50 Chicago wards and how they overlap with State of Illinois-designated Disproportionately Impacted Areas.

DIAs + Chicago Wards

The following ten Chicago wards are entirely overlapping with Disproportionately Impacted Areas (each link opens a map of the ward):

The 42nd Ward is functionally one of the six wards with no Disproportionately Impacted Areas.

An additional 13 wards are majority in a DIA: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th, 12th, 15th, 16th, 18th, 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, and the 29th Wards.

Six wards have no overlap with DIAs (30th, 33rd, 42nd, 43rd, 44th, and the 47th Wards). The 42nd Ward functionally has no DIAs even though it overlaps a tiny bit with a DIA (see map).

DIAs + Neighborhood Opportunity Fund areas

The Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF) is a grant program for small businesses on the South and West Sides in the NOF investment areas. NOF is funded by payments made according to the Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus (NOB) program, which allows developers to purchase additional building density in the downtown area.

There is a lot of overlap between the Disproportionately Impacted Areas and the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund investment areas.

Eighty percent of the NOB proceeds go to the NOF; ten percent goes to a local improvements fund, which can also be in kind (when approved by city planners, the developer pays their own contractor for an improvement to a street, park, or library); ten percent goes to stabilize or renovate landmarked buildings.

Yesterday, Mayor Lightfoot announced changes to the NOF grant program, which include being able to give grants to potential cannabis businesses.

Another important change is funding startup costs “like appraisals, environmental surveys and architectural services”. Previously, the NOF program wouldn’t grant any money upfront; the small business owner had to raise money on their own and get reimbursed by NOF later.

Chicago Cityscape has an exclusive site locator map for people who want to open a cannabis business establishment. It shows the relevant public and private schools and their 500 foot buffers, existing medical dispensaries, Chicago’s seven cannabis districts, the DIAs, and more.

Need personalized site selection help? Contact MAP Strategies.


Where are the cannabis disproportionately impacted areas? was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Where are the cannabis disproportionately impacted areas? [you're reading this one]